Internet Governance

Published on 5th September 2017

The Internet has fundamentally changed human society, bringing profound influence to many areas such as politics, economics, culture, security, military around the globe. We are experiencing the times, at which science and technology develops with an unprecedented fastest speed. It is no exaggeration to say that this is an era of technology and knowledge explosion. Because of the Internet, we can sense everything arising in every corner of the world as if they were happening around us. And deeper connection among people has led to more common attentions. Since Internet governance has become a global issue, the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Academy (APIGA), as a pioneer training program, is definitely of great value and significance.

Well, I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate three aspects and share my personal views with you.

First aspect, what is Internet governance?

I think all of you can recall the definition of Internet governance developed by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in the Tunis Agenda. I won’t repeat the words. { I quote: “Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.”}

However, as for the definition of Internet governance, views are still varied among global scholars and even more the debates have been continuing in the academic community today. Indeed, Internet governance is so inclusive that it is difficult to develop a 100% precise definition that is acceptable to all. Nevertheless, the definition from the Tunis agenda remains the best one I think.

Looking back how it has been evolving, the Internet governance has three stages or phases. The first stage was from early 1970s to the middle of 1980s, during which the pioneers of Internet played a dominant role. And the Internet was in the early stage of research and deployment. In 1974, the TCP/IP protocol was invented.

At the beginning of 1980s, IPv4 and DNS were put into use, forming the cornerstone of cyberspace. The second stage was from the mid-1980s to around 2000, during which the Internet governance was mainly the domestic governance of the United States. At this stage, the IETF was established in 1986. In 1995, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) took over the IANA function from the US Department of Defense (DoD) starting the commercial use of Internet. In 1998, the establishment of ICANN was a milestone of the global Internet governance. The third stage started from 2000 to the time being.

Many Governments and stakeholders get involved in the Internet governance in a more active manner. At the same time, the Internet develops rapidly throughout the world and the innovation of Internet technology and business model continues to accelerate as well, which lead to the diversified platforms and issues of Internet governance. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in 2003 and 2005, after which various Internet governance processes at various levels had begun. In October 1st last year, the United States transferred the stewardship of IANA function to the global Internet multi-stakeholder community, which has triggered global attention.

At the global level, "platform" such as related organizations, forums and mechanisms are the occasions of Internet governance activities; "rulemaking" is the core task of Internet governance participated by all stakeholders. Global Internet governance is a layered framework, and can be generally divided into infrastructure layer, logical layer, social and content layer.

Diverse platforms

At present, the Internet governance platforms can be divided into intergovernmental or non-government. In another dimension, the Internet governance platform can be divided into global or regional. {Some of the important platforms are ITU, WTO, WIPO, WSIS, CSTD, G20, OECD and regional platforms such as EU, APEC, APT, ASEAN etc. Important non-governmental platforms include global platforms such as IGF, ICANN, IETF, FIRST, W3C and regional platforms such as APNIC, a lot of regional IGFs, APTLD, and CDNC (Chinese Domain Name Coordination Association) etc.}

Categorized Rules

Internet governance rules can be divided into two categories; one is the Internet-specific rules, while the other is the traditional rules extended to the Internet. At present, the most concerned issues of Internet governance include critical Internet resources, technical standards, privacy/personal information protection, cross border data flow, e-commerce, network security etc.

Second aspect, the complicated Internet governance, ICANN practice, and role of governments.

The complicated Internet governance

I hope you understand nature of Internet governance as global, complex and dynamic. First, the Internet covers technology, culture, law and politics and many other aspects. Second, the development and application of cloud computing, big data, block chain, artificial intelligence combining with the mobilized, socialized, converged and aggregated Internet services have profoundly influenced on the Internet governance. It is common to be in a situation, where the old problems have not yet been properly solved, while the new problems occurred. Third, demands are diversified among different stakeholders, which also lead to the complexity of Internet governance. Fourth, the widespread and complex of Internet problems such as viruses, spams, cyber-attacks and Internet fraud make it impossible to rely solely on the effort of a single country or stakeholder to resolve them. Therefore, sitting together for global Internet governance and making rules collaboratively would be a rational choice for human beings to response to the cyber issues.

ICANN and Internet governance

Domain name, IP address, and the root are the critical resources for the development of the Internet. Thus, playing an important role in managing the global range of critical Internet resources, ICANN (Internet Domain Name Assignment Organization) is, in no doubt, an important Internet governance platform.

ICANN's mechanisms and rulemaking are of Internet governance in real practice and ICANN approaches is a practical application of multi-stakeholder approaches. ICANN is a nonprofit company established in 1998 under the California law of the United States. In terms of organizational structure, the ICANN Board of Directors is the supreme authority. The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC), the Security and

Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) and the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) are responsible for advising the Board on the relevant issues. The supporting organizations such as GNSO, ASO, ccNSO represent different Communities, conducting policy development processes (PDPs) to make policies with engagement of advisory committees. ICANN calls itself adopting "bottom-up" approach, during the policy processes any interested parties or persons can join and make recommendations through working groups, e-mail, web pages, and speeches, and the decision-making is made by the ICANN Board.

Over the past two years, the transfer of the stewardship of IANA function has received the most attention. On March 14, 2014, the NTIA of the US government (National Telecommunications Administration) announced to transfer of IANA function stewardship upon four conditions. After more than two years’ hard work of the ICANN community, the transfer proposal was developed, and in October 2016 the transfer was made happen. After the transfer, the US government does not perform the stewardship of IANA function. ICANN's newly established subsidiary PTI (Public Technical Identifiers) is responsible for the operation of IANA function. Meanwhile, the newly established EC (Empowered Community) and other mechanisms perform as the accountability framework of the ICANN and as well to the ICANN board. With the conclusion of the first phase of ICANN accountability processes, the second phase of ICANN accountability processes has entered its middle stage, and the jurisdiction of ICANN is the key, difficult and critical issue. We can see that CCWG-accountability has postponed its deadline for several times and set the new target day on June 2018. The jurisdiction of ICANN is the focus of the current stage, next-stage, as well as the next ICANN meetings, and it is recommended that all of us to follow the important and interesting processes.

Role of Governments in Internet governance

Let me say a few words on Internet governance approaches and the role of governments in Internet governance in my personal capacity.

Multi-stakeholder is an approach of Internet governance with different stakeholders participating in policy making, of which policy-making process and decision-making mechanism are two important aspects. In the multi-stakeholder process, different stakeholders for sure have different opinions. Therefore, whether the policy making process and the decision-making mechanism are open, transparent and accountable will affect the legitimacy of the whole process. Besides, in the ecosystem of the Internet, there are a variety of stakeholders and communities of these stakeholders. Many issues of the Internet governance cannot be decided by the governments only, because the governments only cannot make effective decisions to solve all problems. Different stakeholders need to communicate, negotiate, working together to come up with solutions.

Multilateralism is a common practice that has been adopted by governments and has long been put in use around the world to deal with international affairs. There has always been the voice against the multilateral approaches being applied to Internet issues; however, governments are, after all, the representatives of the public interest of respective countries. The responsibility of governments is to provide public goods and to ensure the stability, security and reliability of the Internet. Consequently, multilateral approaches are still needed to play an important role in some Internet governance issues.

For different levels of the problem, wise and reasonable selection of governance approaches does matter. With that, governments should duly play an important role in critical Internet resources, maintaining network security, combating cybercrime and safeguarding the public interest of cyberspace. In the technical inventions, standard-setting, business innovation and other aspects, non-governments stakeholders should play more important role. Meanwhile, markets should dominate the allocation of resources such as capital and talented people, playing a part in selecting and testing technologies. I am of the view that "multilateralism" and "multi-stakeholder" approach are not conflicting one another in the practice of Internet governance. If flexible and wisely adopted, "multilateralism" and "multi-stakeholder" can coexist to deal with many difficult problems we are facing.

Third aspect, I would like to brief you China’s viewpoint on Internet governance and my experience and perspective on how to participate in the Internet governance.

China advocates all parties to jointly build a community of shared future in cyberspace1. In December 2015 World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit, President Xi Jinping proposed, on the basis of respecting the sovereignty of the Internet, maintaining peace and security, promoting open cooperation and building a good order, all parties related need to speed up the building of global Internet infrastructure and promote inter-connectivity, to build an online platform for cultural exchange and mutual learning, to promote innovative development of digital economy for common prosperity, to maintain cyber security and promote orderly development and to build an Internet governance system with equity and justice.

On March 1, 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cyberspace Administration of China jointly issued the “International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace.” The Strategy provides a comprehensive explanation of China’s policy and concept on cyber-related international affairs.

In terms of my own experience in Internet governance, since year 2006, I had been attending some Internet organizations and forums including United Nations Internet Governance Forum(UN IGF), Commission on Science and Technology for Development of United Nations (UN CSTD), ICANN, the International Telecommunications Union(ITU), Internet Engineering Task Force(IETF), Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), APEC Telecommunication Working Group(APEC TEL WG), and Internet Governance dialogue under the BRICS framework etc. In 2010 and 2013, I was appointed as the consultant to the member of Chinese Government in ICANN Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT), following the ATRT processes. When I was appointed to be the GAC Representative since 2014, I began to attend GAC meetings on a regular basis. At the end of 2016, I became the GAC Vice Chair though election.

Well when you ask what requirements are needed for Internet governance, the UN has a set of competency requirements for international staff, and I think they are also applicable to volunteers participating in Internet governance. These requirements include integrity, adherence to principles; properly handle the work pressure; good communication and teamwork; having a plan, be good at using time; dare to take burden; pay attention to technology development, continue to learn and enhance yourself, etc. Language ability, especially English, is a threshold that we, as non-native speakers, must cross. English is the most important working language in Internet institutions. For most Asians, English is not our mother tongue, so we must redouble our efforts to improve our English. In addition, voluntarily dedication is also an important aspect of participating in Internet governance.  Many people participating in Internet governance processes are not paid and work as volunteers.

By Guo Feng,

Vice Chair of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), Peoples Republic of China.

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